Spring break is just around the corner — local schools are out all next week — and while traditional vacation hot spots like Daytona Beach, Miami and Cancun always attract a lot of attention this time of year, Texas has its own long list of popular places to celebrate the season.
The state of Florida is credited with the origin of Spring Break, beginning with a 1938 swimming event in Ft. Lauderdale, just north of Miami. By 1960, celebrating students were coming to the town in ever-increasing numbers, and today’s hot spots for the annual warm-weather festivities include such places as the Bahamas, Las Vegas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Vallarta, Jamaica and Texas’ own South Padre Island.
Located close to Brownsville, near the far southern tip of the state, South Padre is about a seven-hour drive due south of Killeen-Fort Hood, through Austin and San Antonio, and on to the Gulf coast. Be prepared for large crowds and plenty of partying during spring break time, as this is a prime destination for college students from all over the region. For more information, go to www.sopadre.com/springbreak.
For maybe a little more relaxing Spring Break getaway, Corpus Christi is another great place to enjoy a beautiful beach and also explore such attractions as the Texas State Aquarium, South Texas Botanical Gardens and the U.S.S. Lexington - the oldest working carrier in the U.S. Navy when it was decommissioned in 1991 - and now a floating museum. Guided and self-guided tours are available. Go to usslexington.com for details.
Just across Corpus Christi Bay is Port Aransas, a popular spot for beach lovers that is known for its fishing, bird watching, seashell hunting and sunbathing. Farther up the coast is the city of Galveston, about an hour south of Houston. Another of the state’s more popular Spring Break spots, the Galveston crowds can get a little large, especially on the weekends, but there is plenty to see and do in this historic seaport whose first known European settler was legendary pirate Jean Lafitte.
According to www.galveston.com, Lafitte established the island colony of Campeche in 1817, which numbered about 1,000 people before Lafitte burned the settlement after he was forced to leave the area. The city as we know it today was founded by such notables as Michel Menard and Samuel May Williams, whose homes still stand, along with other early island pioneers. Along with its 32 miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston offers such things as The Strand historic district downtown, Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
If surf and sand is not at the top of the favorites list, just south of Austin down Interstate 35 are the scenic Hill Country towns of San Marcos and New Braunfels, known for the famed Guadalupe River, San Marcos River and Comal River. Rent some innertubes or a canoe, maybe a kayak, and spend a relaxing day floating for hours and maybe shooting a rapid or two through beautiful countryside. Check out texashillcountry.com/tour-texas-hill-country-tube for more information.
And closer to home, don’t forget about Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. Fort Hood’s Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Area (BLORA), at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, has a number of family activities available, including such things as camping sites, picnic pavilions, hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, paintball, a 53-foot outdoor climbing wall and an archery range. Admission for military patrons is $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle.
The Outdoor Recreation Checkout Center, located within the garrison 14 miles southwest of BLORA, is available to authorized Family and MWR patrons, and offers such equipment rentals as kayaks, canoes, wake boards, skis, knee boards, tubes, camping equipment, pop-ups/travel trailers, accessories and more. Visit hood.armymwr.com for more information.
Fort Hood’s Apache Arts and Crafts Center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for those interested in do-it-yourself projects, including picture frames, ceramics and ceramics birthday parties for kids. Also offered at the center, 761st Tank Battalion and 62nd Street, Building 2337, is screen-printing, embroidery and a wood shop.
The center has a Resiliency through Art program that offers a quiet area with art materials for soldiers to create “whatever comes to mind.” It is available free of charge to all active-duty soldiers during the week until 5 p.m. Soldiers may take their work with them, or leave it at the center to be displayed for others to see. For more information, contact MWR.
For some relaxing indoor entertainment, head on over to Central Texas College’s Mayborn Science Theater in Killeen and its ongoing lineup of new weekday matinees, classic movie showings, and Laser Friday presentations. Saturday matinees run all day, and weekday matinees are on Wednesdays. Classic Movie Night is the third Friday of every month at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person, per show. For complete show descriptions, directions, membership information and more, visit starsatnight.org.
Also in Killeen, indoor athletic enthusiasts will find almost too many activities to mention all in one place at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. The complex at 2102 Jennifer Drive, between West Jasper Drive and Highway 190, includes not only trampoline-jumping, but such things as a Sky Rider indoor coaster, ropes course, climbing walls, obstacle course, tubes playground, trapeze, dodgeball and a slam dunk zone. For more information on the park, go to www.urbanairtrampolinepark.com/locations/texas/killeen.